Principalities & Powers

The Constitution, R.I.P.

On July 22 of this year, the Washington Times published, as the weekly installment of its "Civil War" section, a long article by a gentleman named Mackubin Thomas Owens, described as "professor of strategy and force planning" at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, under the headline, "Secession's apologists gut Constitution, history." The burden of the article was to argue that both the Confederate defenders of secession in 1861 and their intellectual descendants today (in what is sometimes dubbed the "neoconfederate movement") were and are full of beans. Professor Owens, a disciple of Lincoln apologist Harry Jaffa, expressed the view—shared by Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln, among others—that the U.S. Constitution, far from being a "compact among the states" as the Confederates claimed, is really an act of a single united people. It follows from that view, of course, that neither "states' rights" in any significant sense nor secession, let alone such doctrines as "nullification," are constitutionally valid; that the seceding states of 1861 were engaged in acts of treason and rebellion; and that those who support their doctrine today are not only in error but also probably of dubious loyalty themselves.

It was not the first time that the Times, whose editor likes to describe...

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